Sparking the Future
I’m not from California, so growing up the mere thought of an electric car seemed futuristic and not all that practical. And up until recently, the coolest car powered by electricity was Doc Brown’s DeLorean; which could travel through time powered by 1.21 gigawatts supplied by a bolt of lightning or a little plutonium. But who has either of those things just lying around?
Nevertheless, Elon Musk and his team from Silicon Valley have put a little bit of swagger back in the electric car business and for the first time, I am taking a long look at what the future might hold. Hold on tight, because the Tesla Model X P100D might just be the supercar that the whole family can enjoy.
The X Factor
At first glance the Model X is intriguing to gaze upon. The front end is simple in design without the necessity of a grill. It appears to be about the same size as a mid-size crossover, but could lend itself to being a very large hatchback.
My first impression was that it fell inline with the Mercedes-Benz GLC or perhaps even the BMW X5, but the sticker price immediately knocked those out of contention.
Although you can raise and lower the suspension via the ‘submarine’ mode, this is clearly not a car for going off-roading in, and the 22-inch rims make a statement even when they’re not moving.
I’ve never had so much attention from taking my groceries out of the back seat either. Passers-by can’t help themselves from stopping to ask if they can look inside and I will admit, Gull Wing doors are still pretty cool.
‘I gotta have more cowbell’
One thing is for certain; the Model X is fun for everybody in the car. Tesla is notorious for downloading hidden ‘Easter eggs’ in its software and they are an absolute blast if you know where to look. On the Model X, all of them have been conveniently rounded up and can be accessed through the Tesla logo located at the top of that massive 17-inch touch screen display.
For Mom there is a plethora of holiday spirit. By selecting the reindeer you activate ‘Santa Mode’. The Model X graphic in the center of the driver’s dash changes to Santa in his sleigh and is accompanied by Chuck Berry’s ‘Run, Run, Rudolph’. The front facing radar that used to see cars, now sees reindeer as snow gently falls and when you signal sleigh bells ring out.
Dad gets ‘More Cowbell’. When this Easter egg is selected, you get Christopher Walken telling you that he’s "…got a fever. And the only prescription is more cowbell" from the Saturday Night Live Skit (if you don’t know it…look it up, it’s a classic!). This mode can only be activated by pulling back on the cruise control lever 4 times. Twice engages cruise control, three times engages the Lane Assist, and the forth gives you more cowbell. The road on the dash turns into a Rainbow Road and Mr. Walken gets you on your way.
My personal favorite Easter Egg was the Ludicrous Speed. If you’ve ever seen the movie Spaceballs, then you’ll know what this is all about. When you engage this setting, the center console slips into light speed and a warning message is given to you asking if you are aware of the risks. You get to respond, “Yes, bring it on.” or “No, I want my mommy”. Seriously! All kidding aside though, selecting ‘Yes’ puts the Model X in its third drive option; Ludicrous.
When you hit the gas, the dual electric motors rocket you from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 2.9 seconds. No matter how much warning I can give you, you’ll still be pinned to the back of your seat when my foot hits the floor. Sure, it’s not great for the battery life, but it’s certainly a thriller.
A Completely Unnecessary Requirement
So those last three are all well and good, but Tesla has had some good fun too, which can be shared with others. The crème de la crème is a very unassuming green Christmas bulb on the Easter egg screen. When the car is in park, pressing this button, exiting the car and closing all the doors is all you have to do to arm the greatest gift of all.
After walking away a few meters, I pressed the ‘lock’ button on the key. Seconds later all of the windows rolled down and a fantastic sound and light show was put on by the Model X. People came out to stand on their balconies to watch. Passers-by filmed the two-minute display on their phone and when it was all said and done you expected some rock-concert type fog to billow from underneath the car in an eruption of applause. It was awesome, hands down the best party trick of them all.
A Supercar for the Whole Family
Fun and games aside, there is some practicality to the Model X. Coming standard, the Model X has seating for 5, but has optional configuration for 6 and also seating for 7. My personal opinion is that 7 leaves very little headroom in the back, so removing those two seats from the equation will save you money and gain you some rear trunk space.
Driving it in standard “Chill” mode it handled superbly in the corners thanks to the bulk of the weight lying below the floorboards where the batteries were housed.
With body roll minimized, the roundabouts and sharper than normal corners were negotiated almost effortlessly. And since it is completely electric, the amount of torque applied for acceleration will never let you lag behind.
The view from the front seems endlessly open as the front windshield sweeps back over your head uninterrupted by any frame. The aforementioned 17-inch touchscreen works much like a giant iPad. The navigation is Google Maps with its live traffic update, which is always handy and you won’t have to worry about updating the maps on your own every few years.
A Small Amount of Static
My biggest dislike was the charging aspect. Sure if I buy one, I’ll have a charger in my home that I can let run overnight, but I still found myself constantly watching the battery and the projected distance available to see if I’d make it to where I was going. There are Superchargers available which will give you a complete charge in about 4 hours, which isn’t bad and you can even charge it at home via a wall socket; the time it’ll take varies depending on what kind of electric wattage your house carries.
If I could have charging stations available in the same frequency as gas stations and could get a full charge in 30 minutes, let’s say…then we’re starting to talk about something that could be the wave of the future. I also think that the sunroof windows of the backseat could be substituted with solar panels to charge the battery when the car is turned off…every little bit would help.
I did enjoy my weekend test drive though; everywhere I went was a really great trip. I would like to give a personal Thank You to the Danat Hotel in Al Ain for allowing me to utilize their charging stations for the weekend. I did enjoy feeling like a VIP, and that’s a taste of the future that I can really say works for me.
Price as tested: $158,747
Engine: 2 electric motors, 1 to drive each set of wheels.
Battery: 100 kilowatts
Maximum Range: 350 miles
0-60mph: 2.9 seconds
Top Rivals: None